Kó Art Space wows with Ngozi - Omeje Ezema's Boundless Vases
Human creativity is a lovely thing. It’s why we read books, it’s why we watch films, it’s why we go to museums and art galleries. We do it for the inspiration. We need to see excellence that we might push ourselves further. This is the power of art. In it we find the language we need to express ourselves and the images we rely on to contextualise our experiences.
I went to the Kó Art Space in Lagos, not quite knowing what I was going to see. Some people like to find out everything about an experience before they live it. They read the plot summary before they see the film. I’m not one of them. I knew that the gallery (the art space) had started an exhibition series called The New Nsukka School, and that the first artist they would be featuring in the series was Ngozi - Omeje Ezema, and that it’d be an exhibition of Boundless Vases but I didn’t know much else. I booked a viewing session, and decided that I would learn everything I didn’t know when I got there.
The Kó Art Space is on 36 Cameron Road Ikoyi. The building is under construction, but it’s a nice building, quite modern, like many of the new buildings springing up in that part of town. The lines are straight, the windows are big, and the garden is exquisite. It was a good first impression. I’d never been to the gallery before.
It was on the first floor. I opened the door and I gasped. When you think of a vase, you picture a hollow container that’s too long to be a drinking glass. What I saw wasn’t that. There were bits of clay, in different shades of earth, hanging from acrylic sheets held up by a metal frame. The pieces were shaped like vases, but deconstructed as they were, they retained none of the expected utilitarian function of the typical vase.
My first thought was, “How many hours did it take to make this?”
My second thought was, “This is quite special.”
My third thought was, “I don’t think I can afford any of it.”
Each vase is steeped in meaning and symbolism. Each piece of clay is shaped like a leaf.
Ngozi says, “The leaf represents aspects of tenderness in women that is often taken for granted. The leaf is equally suggestive of the long suffering that women undergo in relationships. When you look at the colour of the leaves in my work, they give the impression that the leaves have dried, yet they still retain their beauty”.
She’s meticulous about the colours, darkening them to her preferred shade by burning the individual clay pieces that constitute the deconstructed vases. It is innovative. It is clever. As for the vases, each tells a story of womanhood. There are some that have vases within them, a representation of pregnancy. There are some that are so well shaped, so brilliantly proportioned that they’d put any self respecting coca-cola bottle to shame.
I think I liked it so much because it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And when the light hit them just right the shadowy silhouette was glorious, another piece of art in itself. I asked about the prices. They weren’t cheap but they weren’t outrageous for the quality that was on display.
Ngozi’s run at Kó Art Space ends on the 11th of February 2021. It is the first of the exhibition series: The New Nsukka School, which the gallery says is a re-examination of the conceptual and material practices that characterise the Art Department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
It was glorious.